Jim Morrison’s poetry is lesser-known than his work with The Doors, but there’s still a lot of intrigue into the man. Even over 50 years after his death in July 1971.
The man has entered legend due to his early death. Forever young and good looking, his reputation revolves around his body of work as much it does he’s no longer with us.
But he was a brilliant lyricist and poet! It’s important not to forget that. The Original Published Poetry of Jim Morrison (1985) is a reminder of just that.
Jim Morrison’s Published Poetry, Lizard Kings, and Inner Demons
Okay, so Moonlight Drive is the type of thing Morrison penned for The Doors. And it’s one of the band’s most magnificent numbers, right off the second album Strange Days (1967).
It’s worth opening this review off with a look at his lyrics for the song:
Let’s swim to the moon,
Let’s climb through the tide,
Penetrate the evening that the,
City sleeps to hide,
Let’s swim out tonight, love,
It’s our turn to try.
Parked beside the ocean,
On our moonlight drive.
His poetry takes a more sedate pace to the fervent state he worked himself up into on the song. Morrison, who was only 27 when he died, unfortunately spent a lot of his time drunk.
There’s still a lot of speculation over this self-destructive side, ranging from suggestions of manic depression (bipolar disorder) to too shy for his own good. Early Doors gigs saw him perform with his back to the audience.
And his lyrics to People Are Strange (1967) suggest someone battling severe self-esteem issues.
But with his lilting voice and dramatic good looks, he inevitably ended up the poster boy for many young women of the Sixties. Although the band’s success fuelled his excess further and he became more unstable and hedonistic.
All of which fed into his prolific writing.
The Original Published Poetry of Jim Morrison was published in 1985, a gathering together of two volumes of the singer’s work. They were first issued whilst Morrison was alive, in 1969. But only as private limited edition copies—100 were printed.
Here, then, are those two volumes:
- The Lords: Notes on vision
- The New Creatures: To Pamela Susan
The only works Jim Morrison authorised for publication. Within these works, packed out with enigmatic imagery, there’s also a beat generation style of stream of consciousness.
You think of Jack Kerouac’s poem The Sea from the end of Big Sur (1962), which The King of the Beats wrote by the surf in California whilst trying to overcome DTs. Morrison’s verse takes in a lot of contemporary issues, even attacking some culture. Notably cinema:
“Films spectators are quiet vampires.
Cinema is most totalitarian of the arts. All energy and sensation is sucked up into the skull, a cerebral erection, skull bloated with blood. Caligula wished a single neck for all his subjects that he could behead a kingdom with one blow. Cinema is this transforming agent. The body exists for the sake of the eyes; it becomes a dry stalk to suppose these two soft insatiable jewels.
Film confers a kind of spurious entity … The appeal of cinema lies in the fear of death … Cinema is created by men for the consolation of men.”
That gives off the vibe Morrison hated film. But he was actually a big film buff. He once wrote:
“Cinema returns us to anima, religion of matter, which gives each thing its special divinity and sees gods in all things and beings … Cinema, heir of alchemy, last of an erotic science.”
He even enrolled as a film student at UCLA and found his projects weren’t well received. However, he did grow a passion for the medium with The Blue Angel (1930), The Devil Is A Woman (1935), and Anatahan (1952) remaining his lifelong favourites.
Back to his poetry and, in the second volume, Moorison took on more mysterious verse.
The snake the lizard, the insect eye
the huntsman’s green obedience.
Quick, in raw time, serving
stealth & slumber,
grinding warm forests into restless lumber.
Now for the valley.
Now for the syrup hair.
Stabbing the eyes, widening skies
behind the skull bone.
Swift end of hunting.
Hug round the swollen torn bread
& red-stained throat.
The hounds gloat.
Take her home.
Carry our sister’s body, back
to the boat.
A pair of Wings
High winds of Karma
Laughter & young voices
in the mts.
According to the book, most of the above second volume was written on July 25th, 1968, in LA. On its synopsis, The Original Published Poetry of Jim Morrison states Morrison was “erudite”.
He was highly intelligent and read from an early age, covering all sorts of topics—philosophy, poetry, 16th century demonology.
But he has his critics. One person online said of his poetry:
“He was a great performer, and as poet he is in the class of Patty Smith or Tom Verlain, means he’s a puerile wordtinkerer.”
1971 sure feels like a long time ago. Jim Morrison hasn’t slipped into irrelevance, though, now having been dead much longer than his time alive.
Make of the poetry what you will, there’s no denying as a performer he was one of the best. The Doors one of the top bands of the 1960s, the likes of Riders on the Storm all-time classics people will swoon over for decades to come.
Brilliant! I love Jim.
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Had a massive Jim/Doors phase when I was 17. 🚪 Still mega.
And The Doors!
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And Aldous Huxley!
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Yuss!!! Brilliant brain, on that one. 🚪 🧠 (sorry, I’m in an emoji mood)